Published by Scholastic
A fight to the death - on live TV. The game show where you kill or die, and where the winner's prize is survival. In District 12, where Katniss Everdeen lives, life is harsh and brutal, ruled from afar by the all-powerful leaders of the Capitol. The climax of each year is the savage Hunger Games - where twelve boys and twelve girls from each District face each other in a murderous showdown. When sixteen-year-old Katniss is chosen to represent her district in the Games, everyone thinks it's a death sentence. Only one person can survive the horrors of the arena. But plucky Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature...
I finished this book for the second time around 15 minutes ago, and I'm still missing being part of its world. Yes, it's that good. Actually, I read the whole book just today, which is why I have two posts so close together. The first time I read it, just before the film came out, I'd followed a friend's recommendation to read the books first, and devoured all three in as many days. I then had to give up my Kindle for a few days so that my friend could read it, and she was just as enamoured. I know my American cousins loved it too. Safe to say, it was very popular in my circle of friends! I have heard a couple of dismissive comments saying it's a rip-off of Battle Royale, but I haven't read that yet, so I'll reserve judgement.
Set in post-apocalyptic America, now known as Panem, the book very quickly sets Katniss, the protagonist, up as a fiercely protective older sister. So protective, she learnt to hunt, barter on the black market and generally help her family survive when their father dies and their mother is overcome by depression. So protective, she volunteers in her sister's place for the practically suicidal Hunger Games. It's not long into the book that the reaping takes place, but by the time it does, the reader knows all they need to about who Katniss is, where she's coming from, and also sets the scene for her dilemma over the coming books. You're rooting for her all the way, and the way Suzanne Collins writes from Katniss's perspective is extremely effective. I was constantly sympathising with her, while at the same time simply admiring how the cogs in her mind worked in helping her to survive. None of it seemed contrived.
I'm a really big fan of dystopias anyway, but I loved what this plot was based on. Collins has said that her idea for The Hunger Games came from reality TV, and what might happen if it got warped. In a society where it's almost impossible to avoid reality television, the plot becomes really contemporary, whilst also having a definite mix of Orwell's Big Brother in there. Having also read the next two stories before, I know it gets a lot darker, but I'll review those another time. (BRIEF SPOILER!) In the TV context, it's also really easy to see how anything that boosted ratings (the "star-crossed lovers") would be extremely powerful. It took me a while to get this, but actually, being torn between Gale and Peeta is quite understandable, given the different extremes she knows both under. I suppose comparisons could be made, but it's definitely no Twilight.
The pacing of the book is done brilliantly (hence why I've read it twice, both taking less than a day!). Collins controls the twists and turns of the plot as adeptly as the gamemakers. The main characters are really multi-faceted, and the important themes - action, politics, and yes, even love - all come out in sometimes unexpected places.
Having also seen the film, I'm really impressed with how well it translated across. Obviously, no film can ever compete with the level of detail and the reader's own imagination in a book, but it was good. I can't remember what I thought of casting at the time, but I must admit, I did see Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson in my mind when reading the book this time. This may come across as a backhanded compliment, but Jennifer Lawrence seems to have the right level of awkwardness/social unease in front of the cameras that I associated with Katniss, and also fits the book's description.
It's time for me to stop rambling and say goodnight now, but please leave your thoughts in the comments. The Hunger Games is a brilliant book and I would thoroughly recommend it to everyone!